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TV18 increases stake in CNBC-TV18 channel from 49% to 90%

MUMBAI / NEW DELHI: One query that had been raised in the capital's corridors regarding the the government's "going after Star News" was: Why has the government not asked similar questions to Raghav Bahl's Television Eighteen India Ltd., another company that had to restructure its joint venture with CNBC Asia Pacific to continue uplinking from India?"

Well, TV18 answered its critics late last evening. According to the new restructuring that has announced, CNBC AP will hold a 10 per cent strategic stake in TV18’s unlisted channel broadcast subsidiary. TV18 now owns almost 90 per cent stake in CNBC-TV18, India’s premier business television service. The stake increase (from the earlier 49 per cent) will be virtually cash neutral for TV18.

Besides the 10 per cent strategic stake, the agreement also includes a definitive 15-year franchise arrangement for the CNBC brand. The entire arrangement is subject to obtaining requisite regulatory approvals.

TV18 shall be hiving off the channel’s operations into its existing unlisted subsidiary (iNEWS.com Limited) and CNBC AP shall be taking a 10 per cent stake in this India registered entity. Necessary approvals from shareholders and regulators for implementing this structure will be sought shortly, a company release says.

TV18 has budgeted an extraordinary, NON CASH restructuring charge in the region of Rs 150 million in relation to its existing Mauritius subsidiary. Being an intra-group transaction between TV18 and its 100 per cent Mauritius subsidiary, this restructuring charge will not have any material impact on the overall financial position of the TV18 group, the statement says. The final restructuring plan is being drawn up with assistance from Ernst and Young, who also acted as advisors on the deal.

Raghav Bahl, MD, TV18 was quoted in the release as saying: "We are extremely happy to announce to our shareholders that they will now have a 90 per cent stake in the success of CNBC-TV18. We also welcome CNBC as a strategic stakeholder and partner in the business. Our combined efforts will ensure that CNBC-TV18 continues to flourish as India’s premier business news broadcaster."

For the record, for the fourth quarter ended 31 March, 2003, the company claimed to be the seventh straight quarter when revenues had grown and costs have been flat. The quarterly operating margin crossed 35 per cent with annual operating profit crossing Rs 100 million (up 255 per cent year-on-year). The quarterly net profit margin stood at 22.72 per cent, up four times YOY. The earnings per share (EPS) had crossed Rs 2 for Q4 FY 2003 (annualised value of EPS: Rs 8).

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